10 Great Hip-Hop Albums From 1988

10 Great Hip-Hop Albums From 1988

Published Tue, May 16, 2023 at 2:00 PM EDT

1988 is widely regarded as Hip-Hop's best and most prolific year for full album releases. New acts, sounds and regions were entering the scene and Yo! MTV Raps debuted and expanded the reach of the music.

N.W.A., Ice-T, Public Enemy, Too Short, The D.O.C., Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, MC Lyte, Biz Markie and Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince all delivered some of their best projects in 1988.

1. It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back - Public Enemy

Widely regarded by many as Hip-Hop's greatest full length release, It Takes a Nation.... is Public Enemy's sophomore album. PE front man Chuck D told The Foundation that the album was largely the result of the group's disappointment with their debut album Yo! Bumrush The Show.

"We sounded dated because we were caught in the major (label) system and we released an album 9 months after it was completed," he explained. "Eric B. & Rakim had already changed the game with 'Eric B. Is President' and 'My Melody'; KRS had 'South Bronx,' Ultramagnetic [MCs], Stetsasonic are all bangin’ and here we are with "Public Enemy #1" which we originally did in 1984!"

It Takes A Nation.... is known for its groundbreaking "wall of sound" production via The Bomb Squad production team, its innovative videos and its militant and socio-political content.

2. Follow The Leader - Eric B & Rakim

Follow The Leader is the follow up to Eric B & Rakim's wildly popular, successful and influential debut Paid In Full. Powered by its lead single and video "Follow The Leader", the album birthed the hits "The R", Lyrics of Fury" and "The Microphone Fiend". Follow The Leader further cemented Rakim as one of Hip-Hop's top MC's. With production by the late Paul C, The Large Professor and Rakim, Follow The Leader remains one of Eric B & Rakim's most celebrated works.

3. Straight Outta Compton - NWA

Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, Eazy E, MC Ren, Ice Cube, Eazy-E and The Arabian Prince single handedly changed the trajectory of rap as a recorded medium and put the west coast on the map with their debut, Straight Outta Compton. "Fuck The Police," "Straight Outta Compton" and "Express Yourself" helped to drive the album to great success with almost no radio play, which was a crucial part of the success of a full length album at the time.

4. Strictly Business - EPMD

Strong Island duo EPMD burst onto the scene with the single, "You're A Customer"/It's My Thing." Their stellar production and slow-flow delivery immediately created a demand for more music from Erick and Parrish. The lead single, "You Gots To Chill," from their debut, Strictly Business, ushered in one of '88's greatest full length releases. Songs like "Jane," "Strictly Business," "Please Listen To My Demo" and "Get Off The Bandwagon" comprised one of EPMD's best albums.

5. Long Live The Kane - Big Daddy Kane

Big Daddy Kane is revered as one of the best from his era and one of the best to ever do it. Kane's singles, such as "Just Rhymin' Wit Biz," "Somethin' Funky," and "Get Into It," were followed by the groundbreaking track "Raw." These releases played a pivotal role in generating anticipation for his album "Long Live The Kane." The popularity of the music video for "Ain't No Half Steppin'" propelled the success of the full-length album, which also featured standout tracks like "Set it Off," "I'll Take You There," and "Long Live The Kane." To this day, "Long Live The Kane" stands as one of Kane's strongest projects.

6. Critical Beatdown - Ultramagnetic MC's

Once proclaimed "kings of the 12-inch singles" by Chuck D, DJ Moe Luv, TR Love, Ced Gee, and Kool Keith experienced a run of underground singles in the mid-1980s that placed them into conversations that included the best acts of the era. "Ego Trippin'," "Funky," and "Watch Me Now" all paved the way for Ultra and their zany subject matter and dope beats courtesy of Ced Gee and Paul C. Critical Beatdown is still considered one of the genre's best releases three decades after its release. "Ease Back," "Moe Luv's Theme," "Break North," and "Critical Beatdown" all contributed to an incredible 1988 release.

7. By All Means Necessary - Boogie Down Productions

The death of Boogie Down Productions' DJ Scott La Rock left the future of BDP in question, but they were able to recover and return with a sophomore album that rivaled the dopeness of their debut Criminal Minded. By All Means Necessary was an incredible release, starting with the Malcolm X-influenced album cover. "My Philosophy," the lead single and popular video created great anticipation for By All Means Necessary. "Jimmy," "Part TIme Sucker," Illegal Business" and "I'm Still Number 1" erased any doubt that BDP may have missed a step. By All Means Necessary is one of Hip-Hop's strongest sophomore albums.

8. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick - Slick Rick

The Hip-Hop world wondered what would become of The Get Fresh Crew once Slick Rick departed. 1985's "The Show"/"Ladi Dadi" set a new standard for storytelling in Hip-Hop and produced one of rap's biggest classics. After the release of "Treat Em Like A Prostitute" and "Teenage Love," it was obvious that Ricky D was able to hold his own, just as The Get Fresh Crew did with Oh My God. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick contained some of Hip-Hop's most humorous and vivid stories over production by Slick Rick, Jam Master Jay and The Bomb Squad. "Lick The Balls," "The Moment I Feared," "Children's Story" and "The Ruler's Back," solidified Rick as a master storyteller.

9. Lyte As A Rock - MC Lyte

MC Lyte hit like a wrecking ball with "I Cram To Understand You." Hungry Hip-Hop fans demanded more from the Brooklyn wordsmith and she delivered with the first full length album by a female MC. Lyte As A Rock gave us a further dive into the world of the brash and confident MC. "Lyte As A Rock," "Paper Thin," 10% Dis and "Kickin 4 Brooklyn" alerted Hip-Hop that a new MC was on the scene. With production by King of Chill, Lyte As A Rock was an incredibly strong debut and the start of a dope discography.

10. A Salt With A Deadly Pepa - Salt -N- Pepa

Salt -N- Pepa showed with their debut that they were fully capable of holding down their core audience and achieving commercial success as well, specifically with their mega hit "Push It." Their sophomore album, A Salt With A Deadly Pepa, created with the help of super producer Hurby Luv Bug, further proved the Queens trio had mass appeal. "Shake Your Thang," Everybody Get Up," "Spinderella's Not A Fella" and "Solo Power" made for a strong follow up from Cheryl and Sandy.

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